Belly Dance for Exercise

shiradotnet

Well-known member
Last night, I sent an email to a prospective student who asked what the difference was between my "Level 1" class and my "For Exercise" class. Composing a response to her helped me clarify some of my thinking on this.

In my reply, I said that "Level 1" is "dance instruction". I'll teach a move, spend time drilling it, make individual corrections, and try to polish up people's form, such as fixing awkward arm positions. I teach a simple choreography so that at the end of the 7-week session, people have a dance they can remember and do. People are welcome to ask questions at any time. Anybody who aspires to perform someday should take this class, not the exercise one, because this class will prepare people for Level 2 which is where I provide the opportunity to dance in student recitals.

I said that "For Exercise" has two audiences: 1) people in my Level 1/2 classes who want to take a second class each week for getting some drilling/practice, and 2) people who are interested in a class format designed to keep them moving. There is no choreography taught. Because the format is "follow the bouncing butt" and the focus on keeping the movement going, the class is not very conducive to asking questions.

In both classes, I use Middle Eastern music. In both classes, people will learn the beginner-level belly dance moves. In both classes, people will learn enough to bust a move on the dance floor when they go out dancing with their friends. So it's a question of what you want the focus to be - acquiring dance skill, or moving in a way that's fun.
 

shiradotnet

Well-known member
One of the issues I've seen in this thread is that of how, exactly, you define "for exercise".

It seems as though most people on this thread think of that term as referring specifically to "high-energy workout that drives the heart into the cardio zone".

I have a different view of it.

To me, I format the "for exercise" class to offer several exercise benefits:

  • Strengthening and toning the core muscles.
  • Strengthening and toning the upper back and arms, releasing tension in the shoulders from a day of hunching over a desk or computer. I use veil work for this.
  • A 12-15 minute cardio segment. It starts with Saidi to get the heart rate up, then moves on to shimmy drills.
  • Gentle stretching, with a focus on the muscles that were worked the most vigorously during the workout.

So although I have a cardio segment to my class, I don't think of the class as a whole as being a "cardio workout". I think of the class as promoting all-over healthy movement with components that benefit different parts of the body.
 

Jujube

New member
Hey there,


But this time, years later, I was able to choose to get more work hours there and have the chance to see if I would *like* doing a more workout-oriented, keep-it-moving kind of class (minimal breakdown, more cueing like an aerobics class, and the students following me in action almost the whole time, a class that is accessible to people even if it is their first class ever).
I tend to like this kind of class best, where there's a lot of choreography and calling out moves. Even if it's just drilling-type moves. I bore easily just doing the same move ad nauseum.
 

RanyaRenee

New member
Hey, anyone have recommendations for good workout-oriented DVDs by teachers who are also well respected for their instructional abilities and traditional/cultural dance knowledge?
 

Reen.Blom

New member
I enjoyed Flex appeal by Kathy Smith, because I could repeat after Ansuya in the back row, rather than after Kathy... LOL LOL LOL
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
Hey, anyone have recommendations for good workout-oriented DVDs by teachers who are also well respected for their instructional abilities and traditional/cultural dance knowledge?
You mean belly dance related workouts?

Here's a good list, courtesy of Shira:
Belly Dancing: Shira's Reviews of Fitness Videos, Arranged Alphabetically

There's also Jillina's Shape Up (I kind of like this one) and Michelle Joyce has a dvd that's fitness-oriented. Haven't seen it.

But to answer your specific question -- I don't think you GET any cultural information in these workouts, so it's hard to tell if the instructor actually knows anything about it. Keti Sharif definitely does, but I haven't seen her workout video so I don't know how much she teaches. Keti also has the Pulse 8 Fitness which is sort of world dance aerobics/cardio.
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
One of the issues I've seen in this thread is that of how, exactly, you define "for exercise".
Good point -- I think for me, I would define an "exercise dvd" as one that either included resistance or strength training, or focused on cardio-respiratory health by elevating the heart rate. (Or both.)


Here's how I understand it, but you real fitness pros correct me if I'm wrong. I'm still studying for the ACE test and I'm nowhere near an expert on exercise science:

The problem with saying "strengthening" is that technically (as I understand it) a muscle doesn't get "stronger or toned" unless you work it to the point of fatigue. To build actual Strength (like to lift a heavier weight) you really need to work with resistance, either by using weights, resistance machines, or using your own body weight.

To "tone" or develop endurance, like to be able to keep your arms over your head to manipulate a veil for a 3-minute song, you still need to work the muscle to fatigue -- but you can take a longer time doing so. (Basically you use a lighter weight and do more repetitions of the exercise.) This is what I've learned for fitness class, and I think it applies to dance as well. Is this consistent with what the fitness pros understand, or did I miss the mark?


The issue I had with many of the fitness dvds is that they don't seem to focus on working the muscles to the point of fatigue. Now that point is going to be different for everybody, depending upon their muscular strength; and maybe I overestimate the "fitness" level of the people who buy these dvds, but I thought the seemed way too "easy" to actually be of any use.
 

teela

New member
I think the problem with anything that is labeled exercise is that you have to vary what you are doing so you continually keep the body from getting used to the same things. Belly dance usually has the same moves used in a routine, even an exercise routine, thus the body does not have to work certain muscles harder. When I was near a gym and going regularly, it was recommended that I participate in a variety of different things so the muscles did not become used to one certain routine.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
I honestly think it should be an exercise class for bellydancers and not for non-dancers. The movements should be already learned to not injure yourself as well as improve your technique and endurance.
 

Antigone

New member
Hey, anyone have recommendations for good workout-oriented DVDs by teachers who are also well respected for their instructional abilities and traditional/cultural dance knowledge?
Jillina, Michelle, Shamira and Fahtiem all have made good workout dvds. :)
 

Nath

New member
Referring back to the opening post. I am doing belly dancing for fitness. I'm older and have back issues that can only be mitigated through exercise. That exercise, however can only be accomplished with low impact exercise. Belly dancing fits my doctor's requirements perfectly. Low impact, works back and stomach muscles equally and builds flexibility. All extremely important to my health and mobility. From all the research I've done, belly dancing is one of only very very few exercises I can do like that and the only one that's fun. I'll take fun any day if I have to exercise. ;) My other alternative is surgery and I don't care how old you are, you don't want that.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Have you tried yoga? A yoga instructor should be able to work with your back too; if you go to a yoga studio or a place where they teach it they should be able to help you. But bellydance does give you the benefits of low impact cardiovascular exercise. Good luck!
 

Nath

New member
I did try yoga but it was too low key for me. I maybe a senior citizen but I'm not dead yet. :lol: That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
No, you sound very much alive! Yoga does help with flexibility which then does help with exercise. But bellydancing is much, much more fun, I agree!
 

lizaj

New member
I tried yoga when I was recovering from an illness and couldn't do my usual frantic aerobics ( some years back). I know the pace is slow but the demands on the body are not. It's a very challenging exercise both mentally and physically and like many of you not one for me.
I think it is easy to use belly dance as an exercise with aerobic intensity as well as learning technique. However when people do belly-robics they tend to ditch the cultural aspects. This isn't to say they don't do different kinds of classes of course.
I find drilling moves (especially in ITS) brings that "exercise" vlaue to the a higher level. As a "senior" of course I have to bring the class to my level. Up to now I tend to last the class better then (even younger) students!
The likes of Jillina, Fathiem,Michelle do indeed produce good quality exercise instruction but I am not sure than these products do address the cultural aspect even if the ladies themselves have that knowledge. That's not what the instruction is about after all.
Wether or not it is "moral" to use the dance in that way ..extracting the cultural aspect and teaching it as a means to fitness in isolation to its' origin s..is another question.:think:
 

shiradotnet

Well-known member
Wether or not it is "moral" to use the dance in that way ..extracting the cultural aspect and teaching it as a means to fitness in isolation to its' origin s..is another question.
That is indeed a question worth exploring.

One way of keeping the cultural aspect in the dance is to use Middle Eastern music, and in my "Belly Dance for Exercise Class" I use exclusively Middle Eastern music.

For the cardio part of my class, I use Saidi step-hops. First, I use a slow Saidi drum to go through the combinations that will be used when the full-speed music kicks in, and use that lower-energy time to tell them about the rhythm itself, Upper Egypt, and how the martial art tahtib inspired raqs al assaya. Then, a medium-speed drum section called Saidi Strut (by Uncle Mafufo) comes up in the queue, and we drill the combinations a little faster, with those students who've had prior belly dance experience playing along on finger cymbals. And then, the full-speed section comes on, and that's when the students who've had prior belly dance experience grab the canes.

I'm afraid that when I'm the teacher, the students will be exposed to cultural things whether they want to be or not.

I personally don't think it's a good idea to teach anything related to this dance in isolation to its origin.
 

shiradotnet

Well-known member
I am not sure than these products do address the cultural aspect even if the ladies themselves have that knowledge. That's not what the instruction is about after all.

Whether or not it is "moral" to use the dance in that way ..extracting the cultural aspect and teaching it as a means to fitness in isolation to its' origin s..is another question.
I would suggest that there are a LOT of people offering "dance instruction" classes in belly dance that have no more cultural aspect than many of the fitness classes. I'm thinking in particular of belly dance teachers who don't use Middle Eastern music, and who teach fusion classes.

I understand the appeal of fusion (and sometimes perform it myself), but I feel it should be reserved for intermediate and advanced students who already have a strong foundation in the original dance from the Middle East.

So... just because a class claims to be "dance instruction" instead of "exercise" doesn't guarantee that it will incorporate the cultural aspect.
 
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